Because drug prices aren't high enough already
As predicted, the U.S.-Korea FTA (what should we call this thing? SKFTA? SKOFTA? KORUS, like USTR is calling it? Hmm...) will almost certainly lead to an increase in drug prices apparently not just in Korea, but maybe in the U.S. as well. According to a PharmaTimes story yesterday:
As part of the FTA, Korea has agreed to abandon its policy of requiring drugmakers to negotiate prices with the government in order for their products to be placed on the national health care system's positive reimbursement list. This policy was reported to be a major stumbling block at the talks, with US negotiators regarding it as a potential barrier to trade. Korea has also agreed to extend its patent period on innovative drugs [...] the Korean Federation of Medical Groups for Health Rights has forecast that these concessions will increase costs to Koreans by 1 trillion won over the next five years, while US critics have warned that they could also increase drug prices in the USA.
Interestingly, doesn't the Korean price-negotiation scheme that U.S. negotiators nixed sound awfully like the Democrats' Medicare drug bill that the House passed in January?
For more on this issue in general, over at Beat the Press, Dean Baker frequently riffs on how patent protection for drug companies is, ironically, a kind of protectionist boondoggle for Big Pharma, despite being promoted by "free-traders" as a necessary part of new FTAs.